Conference Honors Gault Decision 40 Years Later

The 40th anniversary of a 1967 landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision (In re Gault, 387 U.S. 1) that established the basic structure for delinquency proceedings in New Mexico and elsewhere was celebrated during a meeting organized by the Corinne Wolfe Children's Law Center.

The center is administered by the Institute of Public Law, a public service arm of the UNM School of Law. The daylong training for prosecutors and juvenile defenders on delinquency issues was offered in conjunction with the 2007 New Mexico Juvenile Justice Conference.

In 1965, 15-year-old Gerald Gault was arrested for making lewd phone calls in Arizona. After hearings before a juvenile court judge, he was determined to be a juvenile delinquent and committed to the State Industrial School until he turned 21. After his parents filed a habeas corpus action challenging the constitutionality of the state's children's code and the lack of due process, the case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court recognized the fundamental constitutional rights of children and youth brought into the delinquency court justice system to due process and the right to counsel, thus establishing a basic structure for proceedings in such cases.

The keynote speaker was Abbe Smith, co-director of the prestigious E. Barrett Prettyman Fellowship Program at Georgetown University Law Center, where she also is co-director of the Criminal Justice Clinic and a law professor. New Mexico Supreme Court Justice Charles Daniels (`69), who was a Prettyman Fellow at the start of his career, introduced Smith.